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France

Austerity and the big-spending ministers

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-05

Austerity is the key watchword of governments trying to cut deficits and remove debts that are crippling European economies. But the example must come from the top - and scalps have been taken.

Like many European countries looking at a deficit mountain, France needs to cut back on its expenses.

But before spending on public services can be slashed – with the inevitable backlash of strikes and protests from the unions – an example needs to be set from the top.

Two junior ministers have resigned, but they are not the only members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet who have been shown to take embarrassing liberties at the tax-payer’s expense.

 

Eric Woerth, July 2010 - "What the butler heard"

Labour Minister Eric Woerth's ties to France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, have come under intense scrutiny. His name came up in conversations secretly taped by Bettencourt's butler in which she allegedly plotted to evade taxes on her fortune at a time when the minister's wife worked for a firm managing the billionaire's estate.

Woerth denies any impropriety, although his wife stopped working on the Bettencourt account when the allegations emerged.

 

Rama Yade, June 2010 – “Hotel blues”

Even before the French football World Cup squad went on strike and lost their matches, junior Sports Minister Rama Yade made clear her disapproval that “Les Bleus” were being pampered in outrageously expensive lodgings in South Africa. But it transpired that her own stay in South Africa in a luxury suite was costing the French taxpayer 667 euros a night, 78 euros more than the “Ritzy” accommodation booked for the players.

 

Christian Blanc, June 2010 – “The affair of the expensive cigars”

Christian Blanc was the secretary of state in charge of Sarkozy's so-called ”Grand Paris'' project, a 21-billion-euro project designed to respond to the global economic crisis and boost greater Paris as a 21st-century business powerhouse.

But Blanc came under fierce criticism after French satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchainé revealed that his office charged 12,000 euros worth of cigars to his ministry's budget. He later said he reimbursed the government the portion of that money spent on cigars for his personal use. He resigned alongside Joyandet.

 

Christine Boutin, June 2010 – “The triple salary”

It was revealed that former Housing Minister Christine Boutin was earning 9,500 euros a month for heading up a government commission into the social consequences of globalisation. But in addition to the fees, she was also earning 6,000 euros from a parliamentary pension and 2,000 euros from her salary as a mayor.

 

Fadela Amara, June 2010 – “Safe as houses”

Junior Minister for towns Fadela Amara also came under fire for allowing family members to use state properties which she was not occupying.

At the end of June she said publicly that she was in favour of a “toughening of rules” concerning ministerial perks.

 

Alain Joyandet, April 2010 – “The jet-setter”

Alain Joyandet, France’s junior minister for overseas aid, used a private jet to go to a meeting in Martinique, at a cost to the taxpayer of 116,500 euros. He was also accused of breaching planning regulations at his home in Saint-Tropez, where he was alleged to have obtained planning permission to extend his villa that was far larger than that permitted by local planning regulations.

Although Joyandet insisted that “diary constraints” stopped him from taking a commercial flight, he was forced to resign at the beginning of July as pressure mounted for greater government austerity.

 

Christian Estrosi – May 2010 – “It’s only small”

The satirical weekly newspaper paper Le Canard Enchainé revealed that France’s industry minister, Christian Estrosi, was benefiting from two apartments as perks for his job where one apartment is generally the norm. Showing his apartment to reporters he inststed they were “only” small.

His daughter, a university student, lives in one of the apartments in the swish 7th arrondissement of Paris.

 

Date created : 2010-07-05

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